Friday, October 14, 2016

La Orquesta Sinfónica - Una Lección Aprendida a Golpes

I grew up in a time where the only practice that teachers regularly gave us were worksheets - always in that purple mimeograph ink.  The ubiquitous worksheet was the gold standard of student practice, and remained so for years and years.

So when I became a teacher myself, all those years ago, I brought that mindset with me.  I would have a lesson goal and I would look for the perfect worksheet to accompany my material.  But times change and so did I.  As I grew as a teacher, so did the practice opportunities I offered - worksheets still remained, but I added in conversational pairs practice, creative activities, games, puzzles, readings, reflections, and any number of other ways for students to engage with the language.

 La Orquesta Sinfónica - Creative language activity by AnneK at Confessiones y Realidades Blog

So earlier this week I was contemplating a way for my students to work with the music vocabulary we are learning in Spanish 3.  I made an audio quiz in which they listened to a sound file and identified the instrument; which was great.  (I would share it here with you, but it is in Canvas format and I don't think you could access the content outside the app.)  I also made a vocabulary organization activity where students would identify various instruments, and instrument groupings (strings, percussion, woodwinds, etc.), and organize them according to the layout of a modern symphony.  It should have been fun . . . but it was not.

My original idea had been for them to doodle little pictures of the various instruments in the appropriate spots on the diagram.  But then I imagined myself trying to draw a french horn and decided that maybe the best way to go would be by providing them with clipart and giving them an option to either doodle or to cut-and-paste.  The problem was that, as I'm sure you know, quality clipart is expensive and time-consuming to find.  So I found most of the vocabulary and figured they could doodle the rest.  Additionally, because some clipart images had multiple instruments in them, there were also some pictures that they did not need to use.  Add to that there were two sections for violins and two sections for french horns, and we descended into academic chaos.

The ultimate problem was that the assignment was not cohesive.  I had some clipart but other items were absent.  There were pictures that were not necessary.  This created confusion and I found myself having to explain again and again to a frustrated group of students.

La Orquesta Sinfónica - Creative language activity by AnneK at Confessiones y Realidades Blog

The result?  I learned my lesson.  Creative activities are as good as the planning that goes into them.  Don't give half-baked ideas to your students unless you are willing to do a lot of explaining and re-explaining to get them through it.

I did fix the activity!  I got clipart for the missing items.  I went in and removed the parts of the images that contained the extraneous instruments and all is now well.

I did get the occasional bad attitude, but they are just kids after all and they were frustrated.
"Why do I need to know the names of these instruments in Spanish if I don't even know them in English?" 
"You should learn them in both languages." 
"Because that is what education is all about - learning things, growing, becoming more today than we were yesterday."

Enjoy the (fixed!) lesson, amigos.  Download it by clicking here or on the image of it above.



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